Tightening supplies of finished beef cattle in both the north and the south of Ireland, coupled with further opening up of the foodservice market, has bolstered ex-farm prices in all corners of the UK.

Deadweight cattle prices in Scotland improved in all sectors this week, with ABP at Perth, increasing it’s base price by 10p per kg to 375p. Scotbeef, Kepak and Highland Meats, also upped their game with prices for standard grade cattle hitting the ‘spec, of 375p, 381p and 382p per deadweight kg, respectively.

And with increased premiums paid for Aberdeen-Angus and Mey Selections, some cattle are again hitting that magical £4 per deadweight kg bracket.

Prices are very much negotiable, too, according to those in the know.

Such is the shortage of cattle in Northern Ireland, that some processors only have sufficient supplies for three days kill and that’s with increased numbers travelling up from the south.

Latest figures from AHDB for the week ending July 25 also point to reduced supplies, with the number of steers, heifers and young bulls all down on the previous week, by 3.2%, 4.0% and 0.5%. Cull cows was the only sector to witness an increase in numbers of plus 3.4%.

With more people holidaying at home, and the food service sector opening more every week, demand is only going to increase too, which combined with the ongoing shortage of supplies can only point to improved prices for finishers.

On the retail front, the past month has also seen carcase balance readdressed. Depending on the time of year, up to 50% of a beef carcase goes into mince sales, but during lockdown that figure increased dramatically as more consumers looked to freeze minced beef.

Since then, the percentage share of the more expensive cuts of beef such as steak has increased from 15% in April to 22% in May. Latest data, for the four weeks to June 14, show that share has been maintained at 23% which is 2% above the 21% share in June 2019.

Steaks are crucial to driving value in primary beef, representing 32% of spend and 18% of volume in the last year. This recent sales performance for steak will therefore have contributed to an improvement in the overall value of the primary beef category.

The average price consumers are now paying for primary beef sits at £7.77 per kg (four weeks to June 14 2020), an increase of 6p on where it was in June last year, according to figures from AHDB. Foodservice demand and trade have also started to pick up, providing support to cattle prices. Longer term, the impact will depend on the shape of the economic recovery and how consumer behaviour develops.

There was more good news from The Scottish Farmer’s Retail Radar this week, too, which has revealed a massive increase in the amount of Scotch beef sold in Tesco supermarkets.

READ MORE: Main retailers disappoint 

Figures show Scotch Beef stocked in Tesco rose to 80% of the range – a massive 37% points up on the week, with imported beef from Ireland accounting for just 3% of product stocked. Scotch Lamb sold in Tesco was also up to 16% of the range, while New Zealand imported product accounted for 2%.

Again, Aldi and Lidl topped the ratings with 96% and 80% of their range, respectively made up of Scotch beef, while Scotch lamb was represented by 88% and 50%, respectively, in the two German discounters.

Asda now contains the least amount of Scotch beef and lamb. with only 28% of it’s range in the former, and no lamb from Scotland.